My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Industry and Employment, and the action I seek is that he outline what the government is doing to support jobs at Alcoa Portland Aluminium in the wake of the Hazelwood closure. As the minister would be aware, the Alcoa-owned smelter at Portland uses about 10 per cent of the energy generated in Victoria. The minister would also be aware that the smelter employs 700 people directly and supports a further 2000 positions in Portland.
However, the future of the smelter is again under a cloud for two reasons. The first is the expired agreement with the state over power supply. The expiration of the 30-year contract means the smelter is now paying a significantly higher amount for its energy supply, meaning its profitability is being compromised. The second reason for this cloud of doubt is the announcement last week of the closure of the Hazelwood power station. It may be hard to find a link between the east and the west of the state, but there is one and it is troubling. With the closure of Hazelwood, some economists have forecast that energy prices across the state will soar up to 25 per cent. That increased cost would be a disaster for manufacturing right across my electorate. For Portland Aluminium further increases will occur in the cost of production at a time when the world aluminium price is low.
Last week the minister stood with the Premier to announce that they would work with the people of the Latrobe Valley and support them through this difficult period. I ask the minister if that support will extend to the west of the state and if the government will support Alcoa Portland Aluminium to help them remain a viable business, in turn preventing the decimation of an entire community.
If action is not taken now, there is a real fear that Portland Aluminium will close, leaving thousands of people without jobs and the minister facing an employment crisis at both ends of the state. Can the minister guarantee the employees at Portland Aluminium and the people in the wider south-west community that you are not giving up on them and you are standing with them to ensure the viability of the smelter? You promised that every job was worth fighting for, so how can you stand by and watch the consequences of doing nothing, particularly for the people of country Victoria and particularly for the people of Portland?